Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Drinks at West

My friend Terry had had a formidable cidre at the vegetarian restaurant Heirloom in the South Granville district of Vancouver with his daughter recently, and knowing of my love of cidre, wanted me to try it too. I looked at the online menu and the artichoke hearts were listed as "cidre battered" so I figured they knew their cidre. We went there on Tuesday, March 10th. I was surprised and delighted to find a vegetarian restaurant that popular in the city. True, we have more than a few in Vancouver but good vegie food is rarer here than in meat-worshiping Vegas. That's because Vegas has more chefs who are into making great food, whatever the ingredients. All those tourists need to be fed! But the artichokes weren't terrible, I'd call them denizens of the outer suburbs of good but not in the tasteless hinterland. Kinda too reliant on the rather piquant mustard relative. The cocktail of the hour turned out to be blackberry based, or so I was told. Prosecco and blackberry liqueur, and probably something else. All I tasted was the prosecco. Now I like prosecco. Drank many litres in Italy. However. When blackberries are promised, that's the flavour I want to taste. I did not. Alas.
Around the corner from Heirloom is West where my cousin David Wolowidnyk runs the bar. Terry went off to visit his daughter in another suburb and I sat down for some serious drinks from one of this town's most serious mixologists. I craved something lime. David came through with his version of The Last Call,  a drink I'd previously had at the Keefer Bar and made the Marischino liqueur on which it's based a prime candidate for inclusion in my liquor cabinet.
Now I expect good drinks from David. It was his cocktail creations that sparked my interest in this field a decade ago. I was pleasantly surprised to meet a newer bar tender, a young lady from Montreal. I learned this (as well as her considerable knowledge of Vegas)  from telling her a story about the great grape salad I recently had at Yonaka, the  salad plus cocktail plus some other stuff I ordered being less than the cab rides to and from the restaurant. She told me to a great Chinese restaurant she used to go to with her dad in Montreal, food being super cheap but parking quite expensive. She also told me she used to work at another bar downtown but it wasn't interested in making the cocktails she wanted to drink. I think that's the secret of "work." If you're doing what you want to do, it's not work. This reminds me of why I first became a DJ half a century ago. When I heard a great tune, I wanted others to hear it as well. That's what a DJ is. Someone who wants you to be in the same pleasure realm in which they momentarily reside. Hey, listen to this! Hey, drink this! I found that quite profoundly, with both food and booze in Vegas and only occasionally in Vancouver.
I told David my beverage de jour was a sangria so he whipped up a white wine sangria (I drink Carlo Rossi red in my sangrias)  which was so subtle and using so many levels of fruit that it never ceased to intrigue me. That's why I'm at West. Bar Manager W tells me how he spends Monday, his day off, playing with two-year-old. I am reminded of doing the same thing with my young daughter 35 years ago. It is one of the great pleasures of life.
As my ride had yet to appear, I ordered yet another drink, this one from the 18th century. Although tea is listed as an ingredient, it's so predominantly boozy I am more intoxicated than I care to be. All in search of peachery. David gives me a sip of the peachy ingredient, which he says should be in my liquor cabinet. It's peachiness cannot be denied. Made by Gifford. It hits you in the mouth with its peachy intensity. Unfortunately, I can consume but a few sips. My ride shows up. I return to my mountain-hugging suburb. I now have a better sense of sangria possibilities. Ideas for Jasmine have opened up. I have discovered that Vanilla Bean should be used sparingly, if at all, in an infusion (see my Petrossian bar experience from Vegas trip above.) So Dave says just use the fruit, and if needed, apply a drop of vanilla extract. OK. I am reminded of a quote from the recent book Proof:

Research into the taste of alcohol promises to explain the taste of…well, everything, really. Booze more than any other foodstuff, connects the quantifiable real world to the messy version of it we all create in our brains. As long as we're not so altered we are rendered unconscious, or at least, unmemoried.


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